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Elegiac Eyes

Vision in Roman Love Elegy


Stacie Raucci

Elegiac Eyes is an in-depth examination of vision and spectacle in Roman love elegy. It approaches vision from the perspective of Roman cultural modes of viewing and locates its analysis in close textual readings of Tibullus, Propertius, and Ovid. The paradoxical nature of the Roman eyes, which according to contemporary optical theories were able to penetrate and be penetrated, as well as the complex role of vision in society, provided the elegists with a productive canvas for their poems. By locating the elegists’ visual games within their contemporary context, Elegiac Eyes demonstrates how the elegists were manipulating notions that were specifically Roman and familiar to their readership.


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Epilogue 149


EPILOGUE ∢ Scholarly work on the senses in ancient Rome has leaned almost exclusively towards sight. Particularly within the last decade, scholar- ship has focused on the literature and culture concerned with all manner of spectacle, visual ambiance, and the dynamics of the gaze. This seems to be a logical path and not one necessarily determined by a modern scholarly sensibility. According to a number of ancients, sight was indeed the highest of the senses on the sensual hierarchy.1 The dynamics of vision, after all, in great part dictated life at Rome, with the status of Romans based on the circles of viewing that took place. Seeing and being seen took pride of place in both daily activi- ties and occasionally performed spectacles (i.e. the triumph). While in this book I too have focused on sight, it is not my intention to imply that the other senses were not important in Rome. Of course, all the senses had to be a part of life. Romans most certainly would have smelled the typical odors of the city as they went about their daily walks. They would have touched the people they encountered, tasted the food they consumed, and heard the unmistakable sounds of urban life. Still, while a Roman would have certainly experienced these other senses, it was sight that was most fraught with pitfalls and possibili- ties. It was a crucial piece of the socio-cultural and political frame- work of Rome. From the daily walks of clients and patrons to the...

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